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Bulgarian PM sacks three ministers as protesters keep up pressure

Protestors shout slogans and wave Bulgarian national flags during an anti-government protest in Sofia, on July 13, 2020
Protestors shout slogans and wave Bulgarian national flags during an anti-government protest in Sofia, on July 13, 2020 NIKOLAY DOYCHINOV AFP/File
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Sofia (AFP)

Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov sacked his ministers of finance, economy and the interior, the government said Wednesday, as street protesters pressed for the premier's own resignation.

Borisov's conservative GERB party announced in a statement that the prime minister had asked for the resignations after talks within the party.

The major reshuffle came as Borisov faces pressure from thousands of protesters, who gathered for a week of demonstrations in downtown Sofia and other cities.

The protests were sparked by several incidents critics say highlighted government favouritism toward oligarchs in a country where politics and big business are inextricably linked.

The government press service said that Finance Minister Vladislav Goranov, Economy Minister Emil Karanikolov and Interior Minister Mladen Marinov have "declared readiness to table their resignations immediately."

Protesters have been angered over poverty and graft by two incidents the opposition says showed ties between state ministers and wealthy oligarchs.

A small right-wing party says it has exposed government privileges and protections enjoyed by the former leader of the MRF Turkish minority party, Ahmed Dogan, a backer of Borisov, and his deputy, powerful businessman and pro-government media owner, Delyan Peevski.

GERB said Wednesday the party's regional coordinators insisted Borisov sack the three minsters to counter allegations they were directly dependent on Dogan and Peevski.

In a second incident, heavily armed police and prosecutors raided the offices of two of the closest aides of President Rumen Radev who is backed by the opposition Socialists.

The raids were seen by protesters as an attack by Borisov and the chief prosecutor against the president, who has been highly critical of Borisov's cabinet "links with the oligarchs."

"The current oligarchic model of power is depleted and rejected by the people," Radev said earlier Wednesday, pressing for the resignations of Borisov and the chief prosecutor as the only way out of the crisis.

Borisov had refused to resign. His current term in office is due to end in early 2021.

Next week he will face a no-confidence motion in parliament launched by the opposition Socialists though the measure stands little chance of success.

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